The Canadian Prairie Province – The Pembina Branch

OUR course has been along the Dakota or western side of the river. The railway is to run on the other side. As to its prospects, a few words :—A branch of the St. Paul and North Pacific Railway already runs from Glyndon to the Red Lake river at Crookston. The directors of this road have agreed to recommend its immediate completion to Pembina, on the border. It is hoped that the financial condition of the company will permit of this being done shortly.

The country to be passed through offers little difficulty to the engineer. The road bed over part of the line, from Pembina to near St. Boniface, opposite Winnipeg, is ready for the rails, of which thousands of tons have been carried into the Province. We visited the northern end, then constructed to about twelve miles from Garry, late in August, 1875. Driving over the St. Boniface ferry, we passed the brick cathedral of Bishop Taché, with the commodious residences and schools, in shaded lawns, attached (which are shown in one of our illustrations), drove up the road that skirts the river till it diverges into the prairie. Chickens sprung up in covies ; the mare stood well as we blazed away with two-barrelled gun, then picked up the pretty brown grouse and off again, driving through long grass, to find another flock. A long black ditch was finally reached. One end of this ran into a coulee Anglice, gully the other led to the ” Pembina Branch,” already seen as a long dark line two miles away.

These ditches, connecting with the streams and coulees form an extensive and very valuable system of drainage, which will soon bring thousands of acres of rich, but wet land into cultivation.

We were soon driving among light-haired Swedes and Germans, who were busy with spade and barrow scooping out ditches four feet broad by as many deep ; the earth piled in the middle forms the road bed, the ditch running along the whole course. It is noticeable that this mode of construction is adopted for the purpose of keeping the road bed at once dry, and high enough to be above the snow fall.

When the American and Canadian ends of this line meet together, what will be the position of the prairie capital ? By rail to St. Paul in twenty-two hours ; thence to Chicago in twenty hours; thence to Toronto in nineteen hours ; or from Winnipeg to Toronto, direct in sixty-one hours.

As to telegraphic communication, that is, as we have seen, completed from the south and east not only to Winnipeg, but to Battle River and Carlton, five hundred miles west of Red River.


It was the Sabbath, and we stayed for the Monday morning train at Fargo. The Red River runs under its long bridge. We strolled in the afternoon up its sedgy banks. Had we time, we would have liked to wander on past Fort Abercrombie and Breckenridge to the main southern source of this river Lake Traverse. Beyond this lake and divided from it by but a marsh, is Big Stone Lake, whose waters run through the Minnesota River southerly. The region thus bounded, and on to Mankato, south-west of St. Paul, was but thirteen years ago the theatre of the Sioux Massacre. The greater contest between the north and south States diverted our attention from the terrible story of the barbarities inflicted in cold blood by the infuriated savages on the settlers of this devoted region. For weeks the unequal struggle went on. New Ulm and other rising villages were destroyed, women and young children falling victims in scores, till a sufficient force was gathered and placed under Col. Sibley.

Dr. Shultz thus refers to this strife in an interesting speech on Indian affairs in the North-west Territories, delivered in the House of Commons, at Ottawa, on the 31st of March, 1873 :—•

” Ten years ago, this tribe of Sioux were in as profound a state of peace with the United States as the Crees are now with us ; but a grievance had been growing ; the conditions of their treaties had not been carried out ; remonstrances to their agents had been pigeon-holed in official desks ; warnings from half-breeds and traders who knew their language had been pooh-poohed by the apostles of red-tape, till, suddenly, the wail of the massacre of ’63 echoed through the land. Western Minnesota was red with the blood of the innocent, and for hundreds of miles the prairie horizon was lit with burning dwellings, in which the shriek of childless women had been silenced by the tomahawk of the savage. The military power of the United States was of course called into requisition ; but the movement of regular troops was slow, while that of the Indian was like the pestilence which stalketh in darkness. Where least expected where farthest removed from military interference ; in the dead of night they appeared, and the morning sun rose on the ghastly faces of the dead, and the charred remains of their once happy homes.

” Trained soldiers, in the end, overcame the savages; but not until a country as large as Nova Scotia had been de-populated ; not until the terror had diverted the stream of foreign emigration to more southern fields, and not until three military expeditions, in three successive years, had traversed the Indian country, at an expenditure to the United States Government of ten millions of dollars, and necessitated, since that time, the maintenance of ten military posts, with permanent garrisons of three thousand men.”

Thirty-eight of the worst of the red miscreants were tried, found guilty, and on the 26th day of February, 1863, executed on one gallows at Mankato. Many others were imprisoned, and the Minnesota band of Sioux was dispersed. We purpose thus referring to, these events shortly as they relate to the history and prospects of Manitoba. After their defeat, Little Crow, the Chief, with his broken bands, settled at Devil’s Lake, in Dakota, half way between the Northern Pacific Railway and our territory. Friendly Indians suffered with, and for the sins of the others. During the winter that followed they had little but frozen roots to eat, and hundreds of them perished from starvation.

The Sioux reserves in Minnesota were broken up and the nation was scattered as vagabonds, although many of its people had made much progress in civilization.

A band of about sixty Sioux families entered Manitoba and sought British protection. They were assigned to a reserve, but pay unwelcome visits to white settlements. Much annoyance has been last summer felt from them at Portage La Prairie, sixty miles west of Winnipeg. Some half a dozen of them here, in open day, and in sight of the village, in July, 1875, killed one of their own number –a bad Indian they said he was. There was no sufficient force to arrest and bring to justice, and the quiet people of the Portage were made uneasy.

Arrangements have been made by our Government and accepted by this band under which they will soon be placed on a reserve suited to them, and supplied with means tending towards their education and civilization.

The following pastoral was lately issued by Dr. Machray, the Bishop of Rupert’s Land to the Clergy and Laity of the Church of England in his diocese :

” DEAR BRETHREN,-O Ur Church is establishing a mission for a tribe of outcast Sioux Indians, who have found for about thirteen years a refuge under the British flag, in this Province, and who are now about to be settled by the Government of the Dominion of Canada on reserves. Their history is dark and sad, but they have been quiet since they resided here ; still the tragedy in Minnesota which drove them from the United States, was one of the most terrible in Indian warfare. The American Church, through Bishop Whipple, has taken a deep interest in the tribes, and has some very flourishing missions among some of the branches. There is, therefore, every promise of our mission having a ready welcome, and so of being privileged to bring these poor heathens to the knowledge of our God and Saviour.

” I add a few words from the noble-hearted Bishop of Minnesota, Bishop Whipple, who dared all things for these red men, when to speak a word for them was enough to be branded as a traitor and enemy of the white settler.

“I feel a deep pity for this poor people. They have sinned deeply in acts of bloodshed, but were more sinned against. I believe that like wrongs would have led any Christian nation to commence a war. They had an Indian paradise. They sold it to us. In the first treaty they were greatly wronged. Afterward, they sold 800,000 acres of their reserve, and after waiting four years, and not having received anything, they began war. It is all a sad, sad story, which brings a blush of shame to my cheeks. I believe it might have been all avoided. They have lost all, and are now literally men of the trembling eye and wandering foot homeless, dying, without knowing so much as that there is a Saviour !’

” The Church Missionary Society has given a vote to-wards buildings, and a yearly sum of £100 towards the missionary’s salary. We hope for some help from one or two churches in Canada, but must do what we can ourselves.”

In a letter of the 3rd of March, 1876, to the New York Times, Bishop Whipple refers in plain and severe terms, to the subject of American Indian treatment, pronouncing the system ” a web of blunders, full of shameless fraud and lies.” He continues thus :

” North of us there is another nation of our own race. Since the American revolution they have expended no money in Indian wars. They have lost no lives by Indian massacre. The Indians are loyal to the Crown. It is not because these Indians are of another race. It is not because there is less demand for the Indian’s land. It is not because their policy is more generous. We expend ten dollars for their one. It is because with us the Indian is used by corrupt men as a key to unlock the public treasury. In Canada they are the wards of a Christian nation. They select good men as agents. They give the Indians personal rights of property. They make them amenable to the law crime does not go unpunished.”

With good cause, indeed, may the excellent Bishop of Minnesota lament, and all good men mourn with him ; but the remedy lies at Washington, and in the hands and hearts of the people. Were the rogues of high and low degree, from guilty state secretaries to free traders at Benton and Hoop-up, brought to justice ; had the goods and the moneys by Congress intended for the Indians, to any fair extent, reached them ; had treaties been made, but to be trampled on ; had those who should have guarded the red man’s rights, not poisoned him with rum, and then robbed him of annuity, furs and land ; Sioux massacres and Blackfeet wars would be as unknown to the South as they have been to the North of the boundary. Let the spirit of the great nation rise in this its year of pride, to the level that its founder prayed for, and let its hand strike, as Jackson would have struck, and the white man may yet pass without escort by the Yellow-stone or over the Black Bills, as securely as he now may along the Assiniboine or over our Pembina Mountains.

It is not many years since the Sioux and Chippewas were at enmity. At Fargo a Chippewa brave showed an example of the wonderful endurance for which the race was famed. Tied to a stake and slowly burning, he was scalped ; the wet scalp struck in his face, yet he uttered no cry. At St. Paul an angry Sioux followed a Chippewa into a store, shot him there, and escaped. “Let him go ; let them kill each other, so they let us alone,” was the verdict of the Minnesota people. Little Crow, chief of the defeated Sioux, after his defeat sent presents to western tribes and revisited Fort Garry and St. Joseph in person in order to enlist sympathy and obtain ammunition. He found neither. He was then dressed in a black coat with velvet collar, a breech-clout of broadcloth, had a fine lady’s shawl wrapped round his head and another round his waist, and carried a seven-shooter. A ball from the rifle of a Mr. Lampson, who met Little Crow as he was journeying from St. Joe, put an end to the career of this able but cruel savage. We heard of the sufferings and cruelties of this terrible time still on all hands. Meeting an American officer, we asked whether such a catastrophe could again arise along the Red River. ” No,” he said, ” there is little danger. The hostile tribes are further west, and still remember their severe punishment. There are garrisons at Pembina and other posts, and on the banks of the Missouri are a cordon of posts.”


Let us look at this party of three Indians and two squaws that follow a white man into the smoking car of our train at Brainerd. The white man sits beside the younger woman and they all chat together in Chippewa. He is a U. S. Deputy Marshal, and these are witnesses going with him from Leech Lake, iii Northern Minnesota, to St. Paul, to give evidence in a case of indictment for selling liquor to Indians. A description of the damsel of eighteen summers may suffice. Her long name translated means ” Noisy Girl.” Her forehead is bound with a dirty handkerchief, a short black clay pipe is generally in her mouth. Her hair is long and black, forehead low, lips thick, colour, copper ; she wears silver earrings, white and black beads and black rings ; her dress is European, but without a hat, and with a blanket to throw over her, and moccasins on her feet. She is a Marten. These red folks are not of the staid deportment described in older narratives. They laugh and chat together, and seem to enjoy their pipes and the prospect of a visit to the State capital, where we hope they will tell the truth through their interpreter. This Leech Lake fair one is, as we stated, a Marten such is the division or clan of the tribe to which she belongs.

Knowing of the old custom of tribal division, we wished to test how far the Indians actually carried it into practice, and got the interpreter to ask his friends, who seemed to appreciate and understand the matter fully, and immediately replied. The interpreter spoke of the totems, or insignia, as the ” marks” of the tribal division. The Chippewa nation is divided into thirteen tribes or clans, distinguished by the names of animals, being The Bear, Loon, Marten, Bull-pont Fish, Sandhill Crane, Sturgeon, Lynx, Wolf, Reindeer, Diver-duck, Kingfisher, Bald Eagle and Goose. There are, as the officer in charge informed us, 30,000 Chippewa Indians on the Government pay roll in Minnesota. Many more do not get Government support. When on their reserves their own laws and customs prevail, but when not there they are bound by the general law of the land.


At all the stations, and in the cars, are posted up warnings against sharpers and three-card monte men, yet we heard on all sides of the harvest these fellows were reaping. A father and son, who were on the boat as we went down the river, had lost, in betting at St. Paul Junction, one a watch, the other the cash he was to buy his farm with. The smart boy was not smart enough for the occasion, and, trying to win, left part of his savings in an unscrupulous rogue’s pocket.

On Sunday evening we walked over the bridge to Moorhead to find a church. The saloons and taverns were all open, bars and billiard-tables occupied as usual and without concealment, but we could find no open place of worship. The parsons seemed to be off for their va-cation.

The prairie to the west of Fargo caught on fire, and as night fell burned with a strange lurid light. The smoke rose up in a broad cloud between us and a beautiful rosy sunset. On Monday morning we are again spinning along through the park-like region, through which wild pigeons fly, and we pass many ponds full of ducks.

We cross the Mississippi on a new bridge, and see again the rocky banks and beautiful dalles of the St. Louis, entering Duluth at sunset. Very early, on the second of September, we steam off in the good propeller Ontario, Capt. Robinson, of the Beatty line, bound for Sarnia. Passing between Isle Royale and the Grand Portage, evening brings us to Prince Arthur’s Landing; noon of the fourth finds us at Sault Ste. Marie ; in another day we reach Kincardine, a busy town of 3,500 souls, with immense salt works, many substantial stores and residences, and an air of thrift and prosperity. The weather has been blustery, and the tables are not always well filled with guests at meal time, but 5,000 barrels of flour taken on at Duluth steady our vessel. Next we come to Goderich, standing high up over its excellent harbour ; early on the sixth we are at Sarnia, which, with its street railway and many new buildings, seems quickly gaining a city-like appearance. Here we disembark, and take the Great Western Railway.

We have run a race from Duluth with the Sovereign, a trim propeller of the Windsor line, which still keeps its own ahead of us. At Sarnia and at various stations on the line, our train is boarded by jolly companies of red-coats, men and officers, going to the annual militia drill for Central Ontario, at London. More regiments there meet us coming from other regions, and the station has quite a war-like appearance. We roll past fields in which reapers are yet gathering the harvest, which is generally stated to be of unusual abundance, even for this, the garden of’ the province, and we at last arrive at the city of our choice, where friends greet us and our vacation trip is over.


Mr. E. Brokovski, of Toronto, formerly editor of the Manitoba Gazette, kindly furnishes the following list of questions, lately propounded by him to an old and respected resident of that Province, and the answers received; which our readers may consider as eminently reliable.

Q.—How long have you resided in Manitoba and been engaged in agricultural pursuits there ? A.—Eighteen years.

Q.—What opinion have you as to the adaptability of the climate and soil of Manitoba for agricultural purposes ? A—The climate and soil of Manitoba are well adapted for agricultural purposes.

Q.—What is the average depth of the vegetable deposit or top soil on the farm you now-cultivate ? A.—Average depth of soil on my farm is about eighteen inches.

Q. —Has it been customary for you to apply manure or artificial mat-ter to any extent in tillage and crop raising ? A.—I am not in the habit of applying manure except for root crops ; it is not absolutely necessary to do so ; but it pays.

Q.—Give list of grains, etc., which you have successfully cultivated ? A. —I have raised successfully, wheat, oats, barley, peas, rye, etc., etc.

Q.—What has been your success in raising garden produce ? A. – – Have succeeded admirably with all kinds of garden produce ; also, strawberries, currants, asparagus, rhubarb, etc.

Q.—Give the average yield per acre and the minimum and maximum weights of grain per bushel. A.—Wheat yields in some instances sixty bushels per acre ; but averages twenty-five or thirty bushels, with inferior cultivation, and weighs over sixty pounds per bushel. I prepared for the Centennial Exhibition a bushel of grain weighing sixty-nine pounds to the bushel ; oats weigh over forty pounds ; barley over fifty pounds.

Q.—Give average quantities of the amount of seed generally sown by you per acre, of the different classes of grain ? A.—I sow two bushels of wheat to the acre ; three bushels of oats ; three of barley, and one and a half of peas.

Q.—State how often you have sown any one class of grain in the same soil for consecutive seasons, and if so, did this result in deterioration of quality ? A.—Three successive crops of wheat can be raised on my land without deterioration to the soil or grain. Thirty successive crops have been raised on some of the points of Red River, where the vegetable de-posit is eight feet deep.

Q.—What is the cost per acre for breaking prairie soil ; and the cost per diem in this respect for a team of horses or oxen ? A.—The cost for breaking soil is 85 per acre. Horse teams are worth $5 per day ; oxen, 82.

Q.—Give the earliest and latest dates at which you have commenced ploughing for spring crops ; also, the dates at which you have harvested ? A.—Have commenced ploughing as early as the 12th of April ; and commenced harvesting by 28th July. Average time is April 25th, and August 12th.

Q.—Give the ordinary prices of the following live stock : horses, oxen, milch cows, sheep, pigs, and domestic fowls ? A.—Horses are worth from $300 to $400 a span ; oxen, 8120 to 8180 per yoke ; cows, from $30 to $50 each ; sheep, $6 ; pigs (half grown) 85 ; chickens, 37 cents ; turkeys, $1 50 each.

Q.—What is the average time (if at all) at which you have housed your live stock for winter, and about what time have you generally turned them out for pasturage in the spring ? A.—Usually commence stabling cattle about middle of November, and turn them out about 1st of April.

Q.—Give a rough estimate of the amount of capital required by emigrants for the suitable location or settlement of a quarter section of land in Manitoba, at a moderate outlay ? A.–$1,000 is the very least that an emigrant should attempt to settle with on a quarter section of new land.

Q.—Do you regard the climate of Manitoba as healthy ? A.—Extremely healthy.

Q.—Have your grain or root crops ever suffered from any pest or in-sect other than grasshoppers ? A.—Grasshoppers are the only pest we are troubled with.

Q.—How often have your crops been a total failure through the ravages of grasshoppers ? A. —One total failure and four partial failures.

Q.—In the spring of this year do you intend to place your usual ex-tent of land under crop ? A. —I intend cultivating all of my land that is broken up.

Q.—Do you find a ready sale at fair prices for all your farm and gar-den products ? A.—A ready sale at good prices for all kinds of produce. Last summer I sold $30 worth of peas from two quarts of seed of garden peas ; sold in pod at $4 per bushel ; got from $3 to $4 per bushel for new potatoes ; and in the fall sold potatoes at $1 per bushel. Wheat is now worth $2 25 ; oats, $1 50 ; barley, $2 ; potatoes, $1 50. No garden produce for sale.


The Hermitage,

Headingly, Manitoba, Jan. 28th, 1876.

A communication from Mr. Burrows, who is widely known as an extensive dealer in land in Winnipeg, formerly of the Dominion Land Office, and who is full. of well-grounded enthusiasm as to the future, has reached us. Though many of the points referred to are already placed before our readers, yet they are of so much practical interest that we give the following from Mr. Bur-rows’ letter, as an excellent summary of the advantages offered to settlers on Government lands in Manitoba :-

1. Each individual settler over 18 years of age is entitled to a free grant of 160 acres on completion of settlement duty for three years.

2. In addition, the homestead settler is allowed a pre-emption or credit of three years upon an adjoining 160 acres, at one dollar per acre.

3. Each settler may purchase the balance of the section (640 acres) for cash at the Government price of one dollar per acre.

4. There are still large quantities of valuable land within reason able distance of Winnipeg open for settlement or location ; such as the greater part of seven townships in Ranges 2 and 3 east, on the west side of Red River, commencing from the outside of the Half-breed Reserve near Point Grouette, 30 miles south of Winnipeg, and extending thence to the boundary line at Pembina. Again, on the east side of Red River, along the Pembina Branch Railroad, are six townships, including the greater part of the late reserve of Emerson, most of which are still available for settlement.

Again, west of this city we find parts of several townships, in and near the settlements of Victoria, Woodlands, &c., and between Shoal Lake and LakeManitoba, open for location, all within 60 miles of this city. Then passing further west, beyond the line of Rat Creek and Lake Manitoba, we find hundreds of thousands of acres of the richest lands available to the settler. On the southern trail of this district the land is mostly prairie, but having an abundant supply of wood contiguous, on the slopes of the Riding Mountains, and is already dotted with nuclei of settlement at many points as far as Shoal Lake West.

Westerly of Lake Manitoba the land is abundantly dotted with groves of considerable extent. This whole district centreing for the present around Portage La Prairie, Palestine, Burnside, &c., already possesses a good market in the wants of the Mounted Police, rail-road and telegraph construction survey, exploration, trading and settlement parties. Of the 3,000 carts estimated to have passed west over the Portage between Lake Manitoba and the Assiniboine River last season, fully one-third were laden with flour, oats, barley and vegetables. Truly this want will soon find a local supply nearer home, but ere long some point on the south shore of Lake Manitoba, commanding its navigation, will loom forward and speedily take rank as a city of the Prairie Province. This section, as proven by experience in the past, is calculated to attract settlement much before a more heavily wooded district, and must soon be supplied with railway communication, which will be readily funished by American capital on the completion of the Pembina branch.

In addition to the free grant districts referred to, it is under-stood that the half-breed reserves will be distributed during the coming summer. If this much-to-be desired consummation is reached, then the greater part of the 1,400,000 acres, comprising some 54 townships of our finest lands surrounding Winnipeg, will be thrown upon the market and probably sold at about the Government price in consequence of the hard times and consequent scarcity of money. This will furnish an opportunity, scarcely likely to happen again, of securing farming lands at a merely nominal price, that in a few years will be the most valuable land in the Do-minion.

The Pembina Mountain district to which you refer is deservedly attracting attention, and is rich in every requisite of settlement. Pioneered by a valuable class of settlers, mills, schools and stores are being supplied, and altogether the settlers are displaying a degree of enterprise and vim that must soon carry them to the front rank of our new communities.

Yours, &c.,


Winnipeg, Feb. 22nd, 1876.

The tourist will find no route offering more inducements than that we have described. With a couple of blankets, waterproof boots, and strong, warm clothing, he may, on landing at Prince Arthur, and examining its interesting mineral region, pay a visit to the Grand Portage and Isle Royale ; then pass up the Kaministiquia, see the Old Fort and Mission and the beautiful Kakabeka Falls, which are higher than Niagara ; pass on by the Dawson route, through Kewatin, stopping at Rainy River and the Lake of the Woods, to enjoy their romantic scenery and drop his line in their clear waters. He will find good use for gun and rod on the route through both prairie and lake regions of Manitoba and Minnesota. The ” through ticket ” from Toronto to Winnipeg cost last year but $34. Great inducements are offered to emigrants to Manitoba, as stated in a previous chapter. Their passage from Europe is aided by the Dominion Government on terms which may be ascertained on application to any of the agents, who can be found in any city of considerable size in Canada or Europe. The traveller from our older Provinces can go by the ” all-rail ” route through Chicago and St. Paul, the ticket from Toronto costing about $50 ; but that described in our first chapters, taking boat at Collingwood, Owen Sound, Windsor, Sarnia or Southampton, is cheaper and more pleasant. Excellent meals and accommodation are supplied on the boats. After leaving them at Duluth, meals are extra, but can always be had at moderate prices. Between Fargo and Winnipeg a provision basket may well be carried. By all means avoid the gamblers, thimble-bleriggers and three-card monte men—insinuating rogues who infest the route of the Northern Pacific Railway, sometimes in the guise of smart merchant travellers, some-times in that of bluff hearty farmers or of mechanics, and so fleece the unwary. The quiet traveller will never be molested, but will receive as much courtesy as he gives to those with whom he mingles. The settler should enter the Province as early in the spring as possible. It is not advisable to buy teams or waggons on the route, but the Ontario farmer who is so supplied, will fare pleasantly, by bringing his team by boat and rail to Fargo, then harnessing up, and driving in over the stage road. Horses can be bought at Emerson and elsewhere near the border, at from $60 to *150, and farm waggons at from $65 to $85 ; also oxen, which do best for breaking the prairie, at $150 per yoke. Cows cost $35 to $45 each. The Government land and emigration agents at Emerson will always be at hand to give correct information.

Those who proceed on to Winnipeg, or go by the Dawson route, will there find the like facilities on a larger scale.

Finally ; to avoid trouble at the Custom House, each emigrant should procure, from the nearest United States Consulate to which he resides in Ontario or Quebec, a Consular certificate to the effect of the goods being personal effects in transit from one Canadian port to another, for which a fee of from $1 to $2 50 will be charged according to contents of invoice, which he must produce when obtaining certificate. No delay of any moment will occur in entering the Province of Manitoba, if the emigrant will take the precaution to have his invoice or list of goods certified by the Customs authorities at the port in Canada from which he starts. The production of the certified invoice is all that is necessary. No fees are charged for this certification, the possession of which enables the emigrant to pass his goods at the Custom House in Manitoba without further trouble.